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Gold prices dipped on Wednesday, taking a cue from copper and some other industrial metals, but market talk was still dominated by theories on how the United States can avoid a crushing fiscal crisis, while platinum rose on supply concerns.
Spot gold fell 0.1 percent to $1,722.91 an ounce by 1127 GMT, moving further away from last Friday's three-week high around $1,738. U.S. gold futures for December dipped 0.1 percent to $1,722.80.
Bullion hit a record $1,920.30 in September 2011, when investors turned to the metal as a safe haven as Europe's debt crisis gathered steam.
Eugen Weinberg, global head of commodities research at Germany's Commerzbank, said even though gold had eased with industrial metals, the market was underpinned by strong support in the $1,700 area and had potential to firm.
Sentiment centred on the so-called "fiscal cliff", with investors debating on how long Washington will take to find compromises and avoid a series of mandated tax hikes and spending cuts that could send the world's largest economy back into recession.
"If we have brinkmanship, and we don't see a resolution, that could put downward pressure on gold," said Daniel Brebner, analyst with Deutsche Bank.
"That would be a liquidity-driven risk event. If more investors are looking to hold dollars, gold could underperform the dollar," he argued, in a reference to buying of dollars as a safe haven in preference over gold.
However, other analysts see an impasse on the "fiscal cliff" boosting bullion's appeal.
President Barack Obama is scheduled to hold a news conference on Wednesday when he will be questioned about negotiations on the fiscal backdrop.
Participants in an annual gathering of the London Bullion Metal Association on Tuesday said they expected gold to reach $1,843 an ounce by the time of the next conference in September 2013, and forecast silver to reach $38.40.
Silver was up 0.18 percent at $32.52 an ounce.
PLATINUM DEFICIT EXPECTED
Platinum climbed to $1,597.50, its strongest since Oct. 23, driven chiefly by supply concerns highlighted by refiner Johnson Matthey.
Sister metal palladium marked its strongest since Oct. 18 at $647.22, and was last at $637.00.
Supply outages in South Africa are set to push the platinum market into deficit this year as shipments from the world's main producer of the metal fall by the equivalent of more than a month's demand, Johnson Matthey said on Tuesday.
"There is concern for platinum producers in South Africa -- their financial strength and the continued tension between labour groups," Brebner said.
The bulk of the world's platinum is used by automakers in autocatalyst systems that scrub exhaust fumes of dangerous and environmentally damaging chemicals.
Anglo American Platinum AMSJ.J has made a new offer to striking workers at its South African mines, a labour leader said on Wednesday, after two months of wildcat action that has cost it about $250 million worth of output so far.